(Masterpieces of American Literature)

This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald’s first novel, made him an enormously successful popular author when he was only twenty-three years old. The combination of romanticism and realism, mingled with a fresh and—for the time—sometimes startling depiction of college life, caught the attention of the reading public and made the novel representative of an entire generation.

This Side of Paradise is loose and episodic, a collection of vivid scenes which do not fuse into a well-structured novel. It is divided into two sections: “The Romantic Egotist” (the title of the novel’s first draft) and “The Education of a Personage.”

The first takes Amory Blame from his childhood through his years at Princeton University and concerns his intellectual and moral development.

Convinced that he has a great, if obscure, destiny, Amory is greatly influenced by a Catholic priest, Father Darcy, who awakens him to the reality and power of evil. Darcy is based upon Father Sigourney Fay, who exerted a comparable influence on Fitzgerald. In the novel, this moral and spiritual education is dramatized by incidents that appear supernatural, as when Amory is pursued by a diabolic figure through the streets of New York. Perhaps a remnant of Father Fay’s moralism, the sense of sin and the power of sex are mixed in Amory’s mind in an inextricable, if often confusing fashion.

The second section is restricted to one year, 1919, and concentrates on Amory’s character development, which it traces by following his adventures after service in World War I. As Fitzgerald had no experience of combat, he wisely omitted any actual description of Amory in the conflict. In book 2, Amory’s courtship of Rosalind Connage is ended after the sudden loss of his family fortune. Having...

(The entire section is 741 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The son of Stephen Blaine and Beatrice O’Hara Blaine, Amory grows up with money. He spends his early years traveling around the United States and Mexico in his father’s private railroad car. At fifteen, he leaves his Midwestern home to attend St. Regis, a preparatory school in New Jersey, where he concentrates on football and popularity. Shortly after enrolling, he meets Monsignor Darcy, with whom he has a number of intellectual conversations and with whom he corresponds on important issues. Darcy serves as both confidant and mentor to the maturing youth, who is thirty years his junior.

From St. Regis, Amory goes on to Princeton; his first two years there, like those at St. Regis, are devoted to making friends rather than to studying. Amory is successful in his effort, which culminates in his election to the prestigious Cottage Club. He does, however, begin to write for the Daily Princetonian. In his sophomore year, he easily wins a competition in the newspaper, and he is the most likely candidate for the editorship until his poor grades make him ineligible.

Among the friends he makes at Princeton is Thomas Parke D’Invilliers, whom Amory admires for his poetry in the Nassau Lit. D’Invilliers introduces Amory to many modern writers, among them William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and Algernon Charles Swinburne. Under D’Invilliers’s influence, Amory begins writing poetry. Thus, at Princeton he begins his love affair...

(The entire section is 498 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Amory Blaine is the only child of an alcoholic mother and an absent father. As his mother’s companion, he spends his early childhood traveling and living in hotels. When Beatrice’s alcoholism results in a breakdown, Amory goes to live with an aunt and uncle in Minneapolis, where he resides for nearly two years. These years are encapsulated in the description of a party and first kiss shared with Myra St. Claire, and the pattern of Amory’s subsequent life is established as one of anticipation and disappointment. His fledgling character also emerges, as Amory assumes an aristocratic posture.

Amory is reunited with Beatrice at the family estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, before traveling east to attend prep school at St. Regis’s. After taking his entrance examinations, Amory visits his mother’s friend Monsignor Darcy in New York City. Darcy becomes a mentor and confidant of Amory. At St. Regis’s, where he spends two years from ages fifteen to seventeen, Amory begins badly but eventually distinguishes himself as a star quarterback, actor, and editor of the school paper, though when later he recalls his prep school years he remembers his failures more than his successes.

In 1913 at age seventeen, Amory enters Princeton University. In his freshman year, he lives with Kerry Holiday and Tom D’Invilliers and he begins a friendship with Alec Connage. Amory begins to write poetry and vows to make more of his abilities in his sophomore year. Most concerned with his own accomplishment, Amory is unaffected by outside events such as the beginning of World War I. He achieves success as a writer and actor in the fall of his sophomore year. In Minneapolis between terms, he begins a romance with Isabelle Borgé. At the end of his sophomore year, Amory and his classmates travel to New York City. On the return trip to Princeton, a...

(The entire section is 756 words.)